20 June 2013: MEMA Dam Inspection shows no change to Clary Lake dam safety status

inspector1_0Tony Fletcher, State Dam Inspector did in fact inspect the Clary Lake dam last Tuesday morning as previously suspected, accompanied by another engineer by the name of Blaine Cardali. Present also were Paul Kelley representing Pleasant Pond Mill LLC and Richard Smith representing Aquafortis Associates LLC. So Paul Kelley got his MEMA dam inspection after all, but he didn’t get the report he was looking for, or much of a report at all, judging from an email sent by Tony Fletcher to Kelley late Tuesday afternoon, summarizing their nearly 3 hour visit to the dam in a few short sentences:

Regarding the “hazard” of the dam, in my opinion Clary Lake Dam should remain a “low potential hazard dam”. In terms Maine State Law, low hazard dams do not require emergency action plans or remedial action.

This conclusion might have come as a surprise to Paul Kelley but it did not come as a surprise to me. Here’s the full text of the email exchange between Tony Fletcher and Paul Kelley:

I spoke with Mr. Fletcher at some length today. Paraphrasing, he said he didn’t consider the dam breached, that it just has a hole in it- an opinion I myself have offered numerous times in the past year and a half. He also said that the dam was well constructed and fundamentally sound, that it has not settled or shifted nor have any of the massive granite blocks apparently moved, and that it is built on solid ledge. In short, it’s a good dam that just needs some maintenance- my opinion exactly.

But wait, there’s more! The reason they were there at the site for so long is because Tony Fletcher also inspected the Clary Sawmill dam a.k.a. the Clary Millpond dam, apparently in response to a written request dated June 10, 2013 from Richard Smith, principle of Aquafortis Associates LLC, the owner of the mill building and millpond property. I don’t have a copy of that original letter, but I have Tony Fletcher’s extensive and detailed response to it from which much can be inferred about was in it.

The bottom line is that the Clary Sawmill Dam is too small to qualify for jurisdiction by MEMA. Mr. Fletcher estimates the dam is 22’ high with a pond area of 1/5 acre at spillway height, giving it a calculated capacity of about 1.4 acre feet. Dams have to impound at least 15 acre feet to qualify for jurisdiction by MEMA.

Despite the fact that the dam isn’t under his jurisdiction, Mr. Fletcher in true public servant fashion was considerate enough to respond at length to a lengthy list of questions from Mr. Smith about his millpond dam. Mr. Fletcher also debunked the disaster scenario that Paul Kelley has been painting when describing “three quarters of a BILLION gallons of water” busting through the dam scattering granite blocks all over the place, washing out Route 218, destroying the National Historic Register building below the dam, and finally, wiping out an entire endangered species habitat:

Since this dam is constructed using granite blocks throughout, a sudden and larger breach of the dam is unlikely. Being a fraction of the 100 year flood, I anticipate that both the R218 road bridge immediately downstream of Clary Lake Dam, as well as Clary Sawmill Dam, have adequate capacity to withstand a breach of the sluiceway.

And there you have it. I imagine Paul Kelley would like to bury these reports because they do not support his argument that the dam’s condition dictates a very low water level and they leave him without a basis to sustain his case. That’s the risk you take when you engage the services of a State Agency: their communications are public. Lesson learned: never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.

5 thoughts on “20 June 2013: MEMA Dam Inspection shows no change to Clary Lake dam safety status

  1. ann holand

    I find Mr. Kelley’s concern for the habitat “and finally, wiping out an entire endangered species habitat:” laughable considering the damage he has done to the surrounding wetlands by lowering Clary Lake water level to the point of draining them

  2. Claryview

    For those who are interested in the use of words and word definitions: A “breach” (noun) is a hole in a wall or dam. If a dam is “breached” (verb) than a large opening is created such that the dam no longer holds ANY water back from the water body above the dam. The Clary lake Dam has a breach, but is clearly in no way breached!

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